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Yellowstone with 6 and 2 years old

Tampa
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Yellowstone with 6 and 2 years old

We would like to visit YNP and Grand Teton the next summer with 2 kids (6 and 2) for 5-6 days. Our concern is our 2 yrs old boy (he will be almost 3). He is very active and can't seat in the carseat for long. Is it a good age to travel to YNP at all? What activities would you recommend? What places to visit and where to stay?

Thank you.

Pitman, New Jersey
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for Rapid City, South Dakota
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1. Re: Yellowstone with 6 and 2 years old

If he is very active, the biggest concern I would have would be his reaction to the geyser basins. You would have to keep a very close eye on him around the thermal features. There are boardwalks, but areas are not fenced, so he could walk right off some of the boards directly into a hot spot. He might be fine, but if he becomes infatuated with the colors and bubbling, he might take off on you. It really depends on his personality.

Yellowstone is a wondrous place for kids as long as caution is used. They will love the wildlife! My personal opinion, however, would be to wait just a bit longer to visit. I think the 6 year old would get a lot out of it, but I personally think your son might just be a little too young. You might enjoy your trip a bit more when you don't have to worry as much about what he is doing. Others may have different opinions, however, and perhaps have had very successful trips with toddlers.

Mesa, AZ
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2. Re: Yellowstone with 6 and 2 years old

I second the concern around geyser basins, but for both of your children. Take no chances and keep both in hand. I might check at the visitor center for the areas which should be absolutely avoided with children that age.

Likewise, as the parent, keep your children out of harm's way and keep them a safe distance from the wildlife, particularly the bison. The temptation is there to "pose" the kids with the bison in the background and take the "kodak moment" photo. Bad idea!

I would think that there will be ample opportunity to get the kids out of the car and enjoy the park. But, keep in mind that you will be going at a very busy time of the year, and you should never lose contact with your children or they may get lost in the crowd!

There is so much to see that the children will have a wonderful time. The question is, will you?

Fruita, Colorado
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for Fruita, Grand Junction
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3. Re: Yellowstone with 6 and 2 years old

I think you probably will be so busy keeping track of your kids and trying to find things appropriate for your little guy that the trip will be frustrating for all. Not only is their danger from the thermals and animals but traffic and heights. Plus from my own experience your youngest won't remember it at all and the 6 yr old not much. Wait until they are a little older and you will all find it much more enjoyable IMHO. You might consider something like a dude ranch if the budget allows, they are tailor made for families.

Santa Fe, New Mexico
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for Santa Fe, Mesa Verde National Park, Boulder, New Mexico
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4. Re: Yellowstone with 6 and 2 years old

We visited YS this summer and I would have to say, wait to visit. Maybe another 3 years or so to make things easier on you and to allow the younger kid to have a bit more fun. Lots of driving in Yellowstone!! 5 or 6 days really is not enough time to see the parks. If you do go, make sure to visit the Grizzly/Wolf Center in West Yellowstone. Great for kids and they have a special program for kids to place food for the grizzlies to find later on!

If you want the National Park experience, consider Rocky Mtn Nat Park in Colorado. Estes Park is the town just east of the park and has nice lodging options, playgrounds, things for kids, as well as access to beautiful mountains and trails. Nearby is Boulder and Denver. Also plenty of fun mountain towns with summer activities!

PNW
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5. Re: Yellowstone with 6 and 2 years old

I guess I'll disagree and think it would be ok. Our first visit to Yellowstone was 6 days in the middle of a 3-week car trip. That was 15 years ago and we still remember it as our best vacation ever. Our sons were just 5 and nearly 3. The 5-year-old loved traveling and new sights and was better behaved than at home. The 2-year-old definitely missed his schedule and bed (he told us so), but by arranging our days around his schedule, it was ok. Some things we did: We never drove more than 200 miles in one day. We rented a minivan. We tossed the umbrella stroller in at the last minute (we hadn't planned to take a stroller). Sometimes the older one and I would do a short loop and the younger would hang out and play quietly in the van with Dad for some down time.

Anyway, we had a great vacation and it's an experience I know I'll never be able to repeat. We have lots of memories about how our kids were as preschoolers from that trip.

Fruita, Colorado
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for Fruita, Grand Junction
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6. Re: Yellowstone with 6 and 2 years old

quilterPNW, IMHO you had an ok trip, not an awesome trip as a family. As you noted you took short loops while hubby stayed back with the toddler. That certainly limited his exposure to the wonders of the park and I wonder if his memory is as wonderful as yours.

Appleton, Wisconsin
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7. Re: Yellowstone with 6 and 2 years old

If your family is like mine, and you travel some place with the kids every year, then I say go ahead and do it. If this is a once-in-a-life-time trip, then wait 3 more years.

Some things I always suggest - don't over plan. With 2 kids you will not see everything! For you and your spouse, seeing the scenery as you drive is wonderful, but kids get easily bored as the distances between major attractions can be 45 min or more. Bring lots of snacks and car entertainment.

For the 2 year old - buy/ borrow a kid-carrying backpack. I know they will be heavy to carry, but with a good quality backpack, it is doable. This will keep him/her safe when you are near thermal features, waterfalls, or cliffs. Plus, sometimes they even nap while you hike and enjoy your time. It is more practical than pushing a stoller. Practice before the trip!

For the 6 year old, buy them an inexpensive photo album (the peel and stick kind) and allow them to buy postcards and pick up brochures of the activities you did along the way. This tip came from another national park visiting family and it really works to keep their enthusiasm up. Also, check out the Jr Ranger program.

In addition, I always suggest that families spend a little time in town (West Yellowstone, Cody, or Jackson) and do a non-nature activity or 2. I prefer Jackson- my son (OK, me too) LOVED the alpine slide and riding the gondola up Jackson Hole for lunch on top. We have also spend some great times splashing at the beach at Colter Bay in Grand Teton.

Would also like to suggest that you attend one or two evening campfire ranger talks or ranger hikes (even if you are not camping). Ask the rangers for suggestions for which ones to attend, given the age of the kids. They are often entertaining and educational.

Pay attention to the safety information you read on the forum and get from the park itself. With a lot of patience and flexability, you can have a great trip, even with small kids in tow.

Charlotte, North...
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8. Re: Yellowstone with 6 and 2 years old

Take the kids and have fun. The 2 year old will not remember any of it, but the trip is not about his memories, it is about your memories. We took our son when he was 2 and had a blast. Yes, he gets frustrated a little when I tell him about the trip and what he did, but that is why we are going back now that he will be 7. There are plenty of walks to take on well defined trails, several even usable with strollers. Wildlife can be easily viewed from the car if need be. The geyser basins and mud pots all have clearly defined trails and are perfectly safe provided you are mindful of the kids and they understand some basic concepts about obeying rules. Certainly you know your children better than anybody else and are in the best position to decide if this is the right trip.

Preparenthood I would have argued send all kids to a swimming pool and leave travel to adults. My attitude has changed. I made it a point to teach my son appropriate behavior when traveling, and he does so. National parks provide a good opportunity to start that process, with the understanding that even the built up areas of a park like Yellowstone require awareness. Large animals do wander in to parking lots, but visitors to the park overwhelmingly have safe and enjoyable visits.

I have heard many people talk about planning the trip for the kids. In a place like Yellowstone, the kids will in all likelihood find plenty to make them happy. The pleasure in traveling with your kids is not solely in their trip, it is in your trip and memories as well, if not more so. Go for it.

Perth
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9. Re: Yellowstone with 6 and 2 years old

Having read all the posts on this thread there is a lot of great information to help your travels. I just wanted to add that from a personal opinion Yellowstone is one of THE BEST places on the globe to go with young children and we have travelled extensively in US and globally (coming from Australia). I have a 1 yr old and 3 yr old (will be 2 and nearly 4 when we go)and have recently booked a 7 week trip to take in many national parks in USA but Yellowstone and Yosemite were the top 2 for us to get to. This will be the first major holiday with the kids and when we sat down to work out where to go Yellowstone was the first place that came into our minds. How exciting is a geyser going off to a young mind, and the multicoloured pools and all the wildlife and all that fresh air - amazing. As I'm sure you know they absorb everything at that age (my 3 yr old was amazed by a fallen tree today - I cant wait to get him to Mariposa grove at Yosemite... WOW). I think, yes there are dangers and long drives but make sure you obey all signs, plan well and your kids will have the best time (and so will you).

Atlanta, Georgia
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for Road Trips
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10. Re: Yellowstone with 6 and 2 years old

Whatever you decide I am sure you will have a good time.

From a personal perspective then we did very kid friendly vacations when our kids were that age. We went to the beach, zoo, Disney World, etc.

When they were were older then we started travelling going to Washington, DC, Williamsburg, Gettysburg, Smokey Mts. NP, Grand Canyon, Mt. Rushmore, and Yellowstone.

For future reference the Black Hills area in South Dakota does have a lot of kid friendly activities which might be of interest to your family.

Enjoy your trip.